This post was originally published at Speculative Chic on August 27, 2020. It has been slightly updated. You can read the original here.
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I’m firing up Voltron: Legendary Defender as part of my great animation rewatch. Even though I’ve already seen the series in its entirety, I’m examining this with a clear, unimpeded set of eyes to view the show entirely on its own merits. As always, I’ve divided this rewatch into several categories that include characters, story, animation, acting, and more! You can revisit the discussions for seasons One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six if you need a refresher before tackling Season Seven with me. Strap yourselves in and let’s take off!
With Lotor defeated and Shiro recovered, the Paladins are finally able to set a course for Earth. After a long and perilous journey, they discover that their home planet is not how they left it.
Discussion: We’ve got a big shift this season with an entirely new (but familiar) setting: Earth! And to top that off, we’ve got new allies and old enemies coming in for a huge fight as Earth is threatened like never before. It’s time for a final battle for the ages as the Voltron Coalition and the Galaxy Garrison make their last stand.
Story: Up until now, seasons of Voltron tended to run at six or seven episodes or so, but this season we’re coming in at thirteen episodes. There’s a tonal shift that makes this season feel like two-in-one. The first chunk of the season, our heroes are still out in the galaxy, working on ways to come back home when OF COURSE there are things that happen to keep them from easily doing so. Then the second chunk, albeit smaller in size, is Earth’s last stand against the Galra, who have fully invaded.
Characters: A warm welcome to our new characters, all part of the Galaxy Garrison, and the pilots assigned to fly the MFE Ares (Mecha-Flex-Exo fighters, planes made from Altean and Earth technologies). We’ve got the leader James Griffin, who you might recognize in the flashbacks with Keith as one of the people he fought with growing up; then you’ve got Ina Leifsdottir, Ryan Kinkade, and Nadia Rizavi. Of the squadron, James is the most memorable because he’s talented, voiced by the same actor as Prince Lotor (!!) and has a backstory and a bit of a temper already established.
Of particular note, we’ve also got Lance’s sister Veronica, who proves to be brave, self-sacrificing, and quite level-headed when danger is on the menu. Honestly, at first I couldn’t see how she was related to Lance because Lance is such a goofball, but once I thought about it more, and remembered that Lance has had his own moments where he’s matured and become more brave, I got it.
As far as our old favorites go, we learn more about Keith and Shiro’s relationship through the Episode One flashbacks, so the events of Season Six are even more significant (the episode called “The Black Paladins”) because we see how deep their relationships goes in this season opener. Shiro saved Keith from going down the wrong path as he was a young cadet with the Galaxy Garrison, and you really can see how their brotherly relationship developed. I also thought it was amusing that even as a child, Keith was referred to as “that emo kid!”
Hunk also has some great character moments when he returns to Earth, but his family is not there as expected — they have been assigned to work camps by the Galra. Hunk’s desperation is completely understandable, and it leads Keith to having a conversation about Hunk being one of the most admirable Paladins of the group. Hunk is usually a goofy, quippy character, so I’m happy to see him have other emotions this season.
Animation: Animation per usual is top-notch, but I don’t have pretty gifs to show you this time because, I think, of the shift back to Earth. Animators and background artists can have a field day with designing the galaxy, imbuing it with beautiful colors and shapes, but when you get to war, things get mighty technical and mechanical, and then you have Earth, which is…well, no rainbow phosphorescent nebula. I will say that there is something retro-futuristic to all of the mecha and equipment designs (including underground bunkers and transport stations) that remind me of the interior designs of Cedar Point’s now defunct Disaster Transport. If I think about it, this design choice is probably a throwback to the 1980s Voltron.
…Well, ok. I lied. In Episode Thirteen, (“Lions’ Pride Part 2”), the fight between the Galra mecha and the IGF Atlas was pretty cool.
Voice Acting: Since Hunk had more time to shine this season, I’m giving a shout-out to his VA, Tyler Labine, for balancing silly with serious and sad. Also a shout-out to A.J. Locascio, who finished playing Lotor only to join the cast as Griffin, and sound tooooootally different. If the internet didn’t tell me they were voiced by the same actor, I would have been completely unaware they were the same person.
Low Points of the Season: I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.
Adam’s death. Adam, we hardly knew ye, but your death still hurt me in my heart.
Adam’s significance to Voltron is that he was Shiro’s partner before Shiro was captured by the Galra in Season One. We see him via flashbacks this season in the first episode (“A Little Adventure”). Adam doesn’t want Shiro to go on the mission where Shiro was ultimately captured: “If you decide to go, don’t expect me to be here when you get back.” From then on we don’t ever see Shiro and Adam having a relationship. We don’t know who Adam is as a person, how Shiro and Adam found each other, how important they are to each other…and the reason why is that ultimately Adam gets killed. He dies in the first wave of Garrison pilots who engage with the Galra. He is blown up.
I guess we weren’t supposed to get attached to him because he was expendable?
And yet his death hurts because he symbolizes what could have been, and is just another devastation for Shiro. Shiro is a character hit with tragedy after tragedy. It’s part of why I love his character so much, because he is able to endure throughout, but why can’t Shiro have a family waiting for him like all the other Paladins? The Paladins are family to each other, sure, but they all have someone on Earth for them. Although Keith had a brief time with Krolia, he still had somebody. All we know is Shiro had Adam. Although Adam threatened to not be there when Shiro came back (essentially that was a breakup), was that supposed to foreshadow his death? That he literally could not be there for Shiro ever again? Ouch. Poor Adam, and even more so, poor Shiro.
And why did I learn more about Adam and Shiro from a Wiki post than from the series itself?
I hear the excuse all the time that a hero’s significant other is killed to show how evil an enemy can be — they’ll stop at nothing to destroy everything, and no one is off limits. It’s used to justify fridging — to kill someone the hero loves in a horrific way to hit them where it hurts the most. But when it comes to Voltron, there’s no need to prove for the billionth time that the Galra are bad guys. We know. We have had seasons telling us this over and over again. And again, Shiro has been hit where it hurts so many times in this series that it’s painful to see him go through even more. Even in situations where things “worked out” they still came at great cost (i.e., his illness on Earth is gone because Shiro died and was transported to a brand-new body). Why did Adam have to die to prove to the viewers how awful the Galra are and how misguided humans can be? We already know.
High Points of the Season: After being pummeled with tragedy after tragedy, it was great seeing Shiro helm the IGF Atlas as its captain, and to see him genuinely fired up after all that’s happened to him. Then you’ve got Shiro sneaking onto Sendak’s ship to take out their energy crystal, and then that master fight between the two of them, and then Shiro taking his cue from Allura and powering the IGF Atlas into its own Voltron-like mecha. While this isn’t full recompense for all the tragedies, it’s great to see some kickass things happening with him toward the end of the season.
It was also nice to see Allura and Lance having a little moment with mutual blushing (“Stay safe!”) that clearly shows a tide turning with Allura’s feelings for Lance. If you remember seasons ago, her space mice buddies blabbed to her that Lance liked her that way, so Allura’s known a while about Lance’s feelings — even before the charming Lotor waltzed into the picture. And Lance was so kind to Allura after Lotor’s betrayal, reminding her that she shouldn’t feel as guilty, because Lotor tricked everyone. If there’s been a constant throughout these seasons, it’s been Lance pining for Allura mixed with his awkward flirting. This little moment is forecasting that we can expect to see more develop. Plus, it was just cute.
Final Thoughts: Despite there being some disappointment for me, I still loved this season. There was a lot going on, and the final episodes set on Earth really pack a punch. I mentioned how last season was the season of betrayals, but we’ve got some expected (Sendak betraying Admiral Sanda) and unexpected (Admiral Sanda betraying everybody) this season, as well. At least Sanda gets a chance to redeem herself a little! Then we have the season ender, the two-part “Lions’ Pride” that takes the Garrison’s new megaship, the IGF Atlas, out of Earth and into space for a major battle with Team Voltron against Sendak and his powerful Zaiforge cannons, plus the MFE fighters on Earth working their magic. At the end of the first part, Voltron and the Garrison have met with success… only for the immediate start of the next episode having them running into a new but familiar enemy, powering a humanoid mecha that looks like Lotor’s Sincline ship mixed with the Komar, Haggar’s dark power that sucks up energy. So we know this enemy is Galra… until they finally pop that ship open and discover the pilot is Altean. End scene.
Join me soon for the final season and final rewatch post of Voltron: Legendary Defender. In the meantime, I leave you with a fully leveled-up Shiro. Just look at him! ❤︎